Prince Edward Island – Abolishing the TAC at Prince County Hospital in 1986 almost killed our pro-life movement.
Exhausted, and concerned about neglecting their own families, leaders of the six-year battle re-tired.
Woefully ill-informed about the issues and national and global trends, cinfident that abortion had been `vanquished here forever, many of their followers did likewise.
Only a valiant few carried the burdens of pro-life leadership over the past 18 months, trying to educate the unwilling, faithfully holding meetings that few attended.
In recent months they were busy raising funds for the April telethon, and preparing for the national pro-life convention here in June.
They were shocked and bewildered when the Supreme Court decision of January 28 dropped into their unsuspecting midst. Least of all were they prepared for the attention as the only province with no Therapeutic Abortion Committees, an accomplishment suddenly made to look like a major factor precipitating the Supreme Court decision.
They sprang into action, alerting supporters to call hotline programmes ( Atlantic area phone-in polls consistently showed only 10-12 percent favoured the Supreme Court action), contacting politicians and officials by mail and phone (“an unauthorized use of this number”, a switchboard operator at the Prime Minister’s office snapped at some callers).
They scrambled to fill the media demands for pro-life spokesmen. CBC radio and TV were so industrious that within 48 hours we felt as if Henry Morgentaler and veterinarian Alice Crook (CARAL’s local spokesperson) had moved right into our living rooms.
It was hard to keep up with events the second week.
Right to Life drew together several churches and community groups to develop preliminary strategies.
PEI doctor Athol Roberts, recently elected national president of the Canadian Medical Association, had the task of enunciating the official anti-life CMA position: if done in hospital, abortion is acceptable for rape, incest, danger to the mother’s physical health, or when the developing child is likely to be grossly deficient physically or mentally.
Within hours, officials announced that our government would pay for those abortions judged by a three-doctor monitoring committee to come under the CMA guidelines.
Moments later, our two largest hospitals, Queen Elizabeth and Prince County, refused to permit abortions. “Our community has spoken. Our general membership has voted against this procedure. On our own we cannot change our bylaws.”
CARAL, NDP, and Status of Women were outraged. Dr. Douglas Cudmore was determined to provide abortions at QEH – until told he would lose all hospital privileges, including his position as Chief of Gynaecology.
CBC saw to it that Morgentaler and Alice Crook (“The fetus is not human”) were still with us constantly, but pro-lifers were picking up momentum and confidence.
Emerging from a February 10 meeting with pro-lifers, Minister of Health Keith Milligan (Anglican) was wearing a just-received Precious Feet symbol in his lapel: Minister of Justice Wayne Cheverie (Catholic) was not. They repeated their stand: willing to fund in-hospital abortions, unprepared to force hospitals to do them.
At the two-week mark, pro-abortion forces are resorting to bluster and intimidation, and we note ominous indications that the stage is being set for Planned Parenthood to re-emerge after several years of exile.
On the plus side, many lay people and clergy have been shocked out of indifference. Despite the threat of a major winter storm and the opening of the Winter Carnival, 800 people of all faiths filled St. Dunstan’s Basilica, the Island’s largest church, to pray together as a prelude to other initiatives.
“Over 200,” reported the CBC who seemed to have tried of conjuring up Alice and Henry, presumably now back at their chosen work: providing TLC for animals, death for babies.